Royal Melbourne’s original course was laid out near the Caulfield Racecourse in 1891 and members played there for ten years until the historic move that marked the birth of what is now the world famous Melbourne Sandbelt.
About the Club
Renowned Scottish architect Dr Alister MacKenzie was commissioned to design a course for the new Royal Melbourne site. When he arrived by ship in October 1926 he was delighted with the rolling, sandy terrain that grew wonderful turf and was easy to work with horse-drawn equipment.
Before starting work on the West Course design, MacKenzie asked for a listing of all member’s ages and handicaps, determined to make his course enjoyable for golfers of any ability. MacKenzie produced a masterpiece in the West Course during the short weeks he spent in Melbourne.
He then made club member and 1924 Australian Open champion Alex Russell his business partner. Subsequently, it was Russell who designed the East Course that opened in 1931.
From the 1930s Royal Melbourne has been the preferred venue for the big tournaments including the Australian Open, the World Cup, Bicentennial Classic and The Presidents Cup. Since 1959 these events have been played on the Composite Course made up of six holes from Russell’s East Course and 12 from MacKenzie’s West.
Design Features – West Course
Volumes have been written on the qualities of the West Course but put simply it’s a combination of the greatest land, greatest design and greatest construction ever seen in this country. Full of dramatic undulation, fertile sandy soil and with a natural rugged appearance, it was a gift from the golfing gods.
Picking out West Course highlights is difficult. The bold bunkering is visually spectacular while the rough areas around the tees and bunkers are a mix of native grasses which naturally frame each hole, providing great definition and contrast without distracting from the strategy. The greens are simply brilliant and for decades have consistently provided the finest putting surfaces in Australia. Large and beautifully contoured they are built to accommodate approaches from a number of angles with each progressively more difficult the further the tee shot strays from the perfect line.
Design Features – East Course
The East Course starts and finishes on the main site alongside its more famous sibling, with these seven ‘home paddock’ holes the highlight. The bunkering is superb while the greens, though smaller than the West’s, are as beautifully constructed and intricately sloped.
Incorporating the most dramatic undulation on the course, the short four, long four, mid four start is brilliant with clear risk/reward options from the tee and birdie to double bogey possibilities. The closing stretch is equally memorable starting with the short par 4 15th and the heavily bunkered 16th, which is the flattest ‘home paddock’ hole of either course but one of the best and most underrated par 3s in Melbourne. The final two holes, famously used as the climax to the world-renowned Composite Course, are also exceptional. The 18th is one of the most awesome finishing holes in golf.
6th West, Par 4, 391 metres
Royal Melbourne’s 6th is one of Alister MacKenzie’s greatest holes. From a high tee the player is confronted with a choice of driving across the bunkers guarding the corner of the dogleg or playing safely away to the left. The safe drive leaves a long second shot but every metre to the right the longer the carry across the sand and the shorter the approach. The infamous green tilts steeply from back to front and so severe is the surface that Tom Weiskopf four putted in the 1972 World Cup.
‘It’s the only green I ever four putted when I was trying on every putt’ said Weiskopf .
Ernie Els came here in 2004 with a big lead in the Heineken Classic and after a typically perfect Els drive he made a very untypical mess of the rest and stumbled to the 7th tee with an eight on his card and his four– shot lead gone. He eventually won but it was a deal less comfortable than it might have been.